The Dentist IS My Friend (a mantra)

I’ll admit, I have a teeny weeny dental phobia. Okay, maybe more than teeny weeny but I’ve managed over the years to overcome it, for the most part, at least enough to get the necessary dental work done. I even had peridontal surgery! But that’s another post.

I sit here typing with a gaping hole in my mouth ..and a maritni by my side. After much pleading with my patient, compassionate, well skilled dentist to please replace (which means re-glue) that crown into place ONE more time, he finally convinced me it just ain’t happening and the tooth would need to be extracted in prep for a ……..dental implant. Lord, I just can’t think about it without breaking into a cold sweat. Yet when the time comes, I’ll bite the bullet..possibly his fingers….and do it.

My reason for bringing this to your attention is how I made the decision when my kids were quite young that they NOT be burdened with the same disdain for the dentist as I was. You see, when I was growing up we didn’t have dental insurance and so were only sent to the dentist in “emergency” situations. Not a fun way to establish a positive, trusted relationship with a man who you saw only when you were in pain! And so my children first saw the dentist at age 3 and I was quite diligent about bi annual cleanings and sealants, preventive care and braces. The whole enchilada.

And I continue that regimen with the GP. In fact he ASKS when his next cleaning is! He eagerly strides through the door never noting or commenting about the antiseptic smell that makes me nauseous. He smiles at the receptionist, flops in a chair with ease and comfort and hops up when his name is called like he’s first in line at the burger joint with a free coupon! And then turns to tell me as I rise to accompany him, “I’m good Nan..I’ll be right out”. I smile and nod, turn back to my chair and magazine and then think I’ve done something right here and he won’t feel the need for a martini after a dental visit.

Hey! maybe he’ll opt for dental school and I can get my dentures for free! Now there’s a thought!

Happy Thursday.
Love and Light.

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He’s Being Eight..

eightI’m very fortunate to have extensive experience facilitating parenting education groups as well as many years working in a social service agency. Both of these situations have afforded me wonderful resources in terms of access to people who work with children and have a wealth of knowledge around child development issues. It’s a resource I’ve tapped multiple times over the years.
With all this knowledge and resources at my fingertips, one would think I’d have a handle on just about any situation that arises when one is parenting a child.
Wrong. I don’t.
Case in point. The GrandPrince (grandson approaching eight years old in a few weeks) recently was behaving in a manner that was, well, not himself. He was flippant, a bit combative, sulky and challenged almost every statement or decision I made insisting on knowing the ‘why’ of each one and loudly voicing his reasons as to why it should or should not happen.
Now I have a pretty democratic parenting style. I know not to get pulled into power struggles, the importance of giving choices, when to set boundaries and limits and respecting a child’s feelings. But this kid was pushing my buttons big time!
I talked to the Spouse about the GP’s behavior and he was as stumped as I was. It was simply out of character for him. The light bulb went off for both of us at the same time.
He must have some dormant feelings he’s not dealing with about his adoption/living situation/mother/sister/not having a traditional family, etc, etc. You name it, we came up with it. We immediately put our head’s together to determine a strategy that would help to narrow down what could be bothering our grandson and how best to support him and encourage him to share his feelings with us.
Given my access to the above mentioned resources, I spoke to a dear friend who happens to be a fabulous social worker with a number of years in the field working with children and families. I listed all the behaviors and the possibilities for this acting out that had changed our usual compliant, good natured grandson into an irritating, restless, sullen stranger. She listened quite attentively, nodding appropriately and then sat back a minute before replying.
“I can see how upsetting this is for you, and how perplexing too. Have you thought that perhaps he’s just being an eight year old?”
I blinked. And blinked again. I was complicating things by overlooking the simplicity of them. I dug out some child development books and lo and behold I could have inserted his name right under “Your Eight Year Old’s Social/Emotional Development”.
My point in all this is, as grandparents raising our grandchildren we are at times hell bent, I believe, to make life as ‘normal’ as possible for them to make up for what they don’t have; that traditional Mom and Dad who are age appropriate and are just like the parents of all their friends.
Truth is, we’re not a traditional family, but we *are* a family. A loving, caring, nurturing, supportive family. And yes, our circumstances are different from the traditional families on the block and with that comes, at times, issues that must be addressed, questions answered, feelings expressed and dealt with. But most of the time, we’re just like everyone else who’s raising a child and trying to do the best they can to help that child grow to be a happy, confident, loving, caring human being.
It’s not always about the differences, sometimes it’s just about being eight. Happy Birthday, kiddo.

Happy Friday
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Until Death Do We Part…or whoever gets most of the blanket.

The Spouse and I are coming up to our 31st wedding anniversary this June.  A quiet weekend away alone will be our celebration. Nothing glitzy. We’re blessed to have a condo in the mountains for family getaways and we don’t get there often enough, but I’ve booked that weekend early. For a couple to be married more than 30 years seems to be quite a feat these days; at least the reactions I receive when the topic comes up give merit to that statement.  I suppose in retrospect it is pretty amazing to have lived, loved, fought, argued, cried, laughed, nurtured, supported and shared the same bathroom with one person all those years. And sharing a bathroom takes great compromise and patience. There are no secrets I’m aware of that can guarantee a long happy marriage, or any other relationship for that matter. I do know that communication is key.

Dr. John Gray authored a wonderful book titled “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” and it’s pages are dog eared now in our house. The Spouse thumbs through it often, which makes me smile because I know he’s seeing the truth of some of Dr Grays theory and rolling his eyes at the rest. Either way, it’s caused us both to pause when we’re having discussions or muddling through our frustrations as to why the other just doesn’t get what we’re saying when it’s so very obvious!

To sum things up, ongoing communication is vital. Open, honest, heartfelt sharing of feelings brings any relationship to a more intimate and bonded level. Learning what your communication styles are and prioritizing your marriage, committing to grow together to insure understanding and empathy for each others feelings will be the best foundation you can lay to have the joy of looking back over, oh say..30 years.

And not hogging the blankets is second on the priority list!

Happy Saturday!

Time is not on my side


Contrary to the lyrics of the Rolling Stones hit, “time is on my side, yes it is”, there are many days when I wish for 28 hours instead of 24.
Here’s the schedule for the end of our day, not even factoring in the eight plus hours prior.  Bet there’s a familiar them here for you as well.

After a full workday, I pick up the Grand Prince from after school care, which for me is in the same building I’m employed. That’s a huge plus. Next it’s off to run a few errands, maybe pick up something from the market. If it’s not a karate class day or a tennis lesson then we finish up and head home. Upon arriving we greet the menage of animals and then doff the winter attire to appropriate places and tackle the backpack. Homework, notices from school, permission slips, all to be signed, read or filed on the fridge. Next it’s homework and a snack. I’m very fortunate he’s a conscientious kid and one who enjoys learning, so there’s very little balking about getting homework done. The GP is very on target about snacks too and what’s okay and what’s ‘are you kidding me before dinner!?” sort of snacks.
I start tossing in a load of laundry or swapping one to the dryer while answering questions about spelling, grammar or math (Gods, I hate the math part and beg for the Spouse to handle that. Yes, I’m math phobic). Usually the Spouse is home before me and starts dinner. I’m in love with him all over again every day for that!. While dinner cooks, the GP must do 15 to 20 minutes of silent reading and I get the same time to check email, scan the newspaper, sort the mail and reconnect with the Spouse to share the days events. Multitasking? Parents have done it for decades without a fancy title.
After we share dinner and discussions of our day, it’s time for cleanup, load the dishwasher and a shower for the Prince. While the grandson sings in the shower, I get clothes ready for the next day and pack lunches and/or snacks and remind him over the din of singing and splashing to make sure homework is safely tucked in the backpack.
Toothbrushing and pajamas come next, a little television and/or snuggle time and in a blink of an eye, the clock strikes eight and it’s up to bed and a story. I have managed a few breaths in between. I love you’s are exchanged as are hugs and sweet dreams wishes. All within a three hour time span. Whew!
When coworkers at our lunch table excitedly rehash their favorite episodes of Scrubs, CSI:Miami or Law and Order I nod, smile and listen; totally and blissfully clueless.

I’m asleep by 9:30.

Happy Thursday!

Creature Comforts


Winter days are short. Winter nights are long. Even though the days grow longer now that we’re beyond the winter solstice, I’m not convinced summer is all that close just because it’s no longer getting dark at 4:30PM. Why is this of importance? I equate dark, cold and winter with keeping warm and cozy. Warm and cozy means comfort food. Comfort food means anything that immediately bypasses the digestive system and settles right into the thighs and hips with a resounding “I’m home!”
Stews, casseroles, apple pies, toll house cookies, mac and cheese..well, anything with melted cheese. The aromas that permeate our house on a cold winter’s evening are enough to bring a content audible sigh and send me running for my Snuggie. Yes, I bought one..two in fact.
The Grand Prince is a creature of comfort too. He devours carbs like a starving man, strokes fleece and flannel like a well loved feline and has his own Snuggie! So sue me, I bought the second one for him. Give him a bowl of mac and cheese, a fresh from the dryer pair of pj’s and permission to snuggle down in the living room with both and he’s in heaven.
I guess I’m taking the long road to simply say that we sometimes overlook the small things in every day living that give us that warm belly feeling that children revel in so easily. Life with my grandson has taught me to pause and relish the first sip of morning coffee on a frosty morning. To laugh and enjoy the lengthy process of cooking anything with a seven year old. To count blessings when it’s far easier to complain. To remember how quickly a child grows and the regret we feel when we ‘wish we had’. To cherish the love of family and friends and to never take either for granted. To be thankful for a warm house, a secure job and money to pay the bills.

And yes, to buy a Snuggie or two just because we want it.

Grandparents Day is Every Day


The second Sunday of each September is Grandparents Day. A day to celebrate the special bond and role that grandparents hold in the tapestry called family. For some of us that celebration takes on a new and different meaning each day the sun rises. We are custodial caretakers of our grandchildren.

Raising a grandchild is hardly an enigma these days. It’s an unfortunate, stark reality. Unfortunate in that, for a myriad of reasons, children have to leave their parent’s care, most times under duress, tears and confusion and move in with their grandparents or other kinship caretakers. Drug addiction, mental illness, alcoholism, domestic violence are but some of the reasons a grandparent may suddenly be thrust into the position of taking their child’s child to avoid the alternative; foster care. I’ve yet to meet a grandparent, when faced with the choice, chooses the alternative. Those that do, I can only imagine, may live with anguish, guilt and fear after making the decision to place a child of their heart into a bureaucratic foster care system. I do not envy them nor pass judgment upon them.

There are approximately 3.7 million children in the U.S being raised by grandparents according to the Census Bureau’s 2006 American Community Survey, a 30 percent jump since 1990. Grandparents finding themselves in a care giving role once more are often unaware of any available resources in their state to support them and their grandchildren as they adjust to their new lifestyles. It can be a tough road alone and at a stage in your life you hadn’t planned on.

The word adjustment seems a little meager to me. Just when you started to plan a life for yourself and your spouse; just as the nest started feeling so much less empty and ever more filled with the dreams and plans envisioned decades prior. Often without warning you find yourself in the midst of a crisis with your child AND your grandchild at center stage. You become the entire supporting cast.

As the dust settles and the day to day routines are established in your new roles, the emotions unravel from that safe knot you’ve tied them in so deep within the pit of your stomach.
Anger and hurt at your own child for not living up to the dream of the person you had hoped would grow to become a responsible adult and parent.
Bitterness and resentment at a system that does not provide enough of anything for grandparents and families willing to take a child that might well have been placed on the backs of the state’s taxpayers.
Sorrow and grief for the life you had mapped out in that long awaited unspoken reward when the children you bore left to make a life of their own and you got one too.
Anxiety and worry over the financial, emotional and physical demands embodied in raising another human being at an age when mind, body and spirit are no longer energizer bunny ready.

Each emotion is true and real and so very normal. That’s the hard part, the acceptance of it all. The passage of time helps. Reaching out to family and friends is a must. Finding the community resources available to you is essential. Coming to the realization that life doesn’t always agree with your plan, no matter how well you orchestrated everything you could for the desired outcome, is crucial.

We made a choice to embrace this child and give him what our child could not. There’s not enough time or where with all to wallow in the sea of emotion that seems, at times, to drag us under. He deserves better from us. And the joy he brings to our home and family is immeasurable. He brings with him a life gift unexpected but full of new hopes, new dreams and unending possibilities.

Friends or acquaintances who learn of our second round parenting say we have a place awaiting in heaven for doing what they think they never could.
My usual reply is very simple.
“We are all ready very blessed in too many ways to list. We didn’t do this for a reservation in heaven. The big Guy sorta knew the outcome of this one before we did.”

And then I ask, “If it were your grandchild (insert name here), wouldn’t you do the same?”

I almost always get a thoughtful pause, a nod and gentle knowing smile in return.

Happy Grandparents Day…everyday!

School Days


Despite the summer temperatures, my brain whispers “Fall”. Why? Because it’s September and back to school time. I still get those pre school butterflies as memories of sweaters, new shoes and backpacks find themselves occupying my mind. My grandson (a.k.a. the Grand Prince) began his third year at our neighborhood elementary school last week. I believe we were both ready for him to begin, having crammed in vacations, educational day trips, play dates, numerous barbecues with family and friends, a few birthday parties, pool parties and a smattering of lazy, couch potato days, the latter of which was deemed a necessity by moi simply to take a breath; all between mid June and August 31st. Whew! No wonder we were starving for a little structure and schedules!

Returning to school takes some preparation, even for the ‘seasoned’ parent and child. There will be new clothes, shoes, backpacks and lunch boxes to buy. Perhaps finishing up that last book on the summer reading list and reorganizing the child’s desk to reflect the transition from ‘catch all’ to workspace. This is also a good time to sort through your child’s summer or fall clothes and deliver the no-way-this-fits-pile to your local consignment shop.

School supplies must fit into your budget as well. Teachers will usually send home a welcome letter to their students with a list of needed supplies as well as any donations much needed and appreciated for the classroom. For your older children, it’s best to wait until school begins to accommodate the requirements of more than one teacher. The Marilyn Manson or High School Musical three ring binder your child just had to have would be frowned upon when a plain white one was required.

Those lazy days of summer when sleeping past the alarm wasn’t a worry is now a very big deal. We all relax our schedules over the summer break and getting back on track for the fall transition can be a bit of a struggle. I always begin a good week to ten days before the official start of school by regulating bedtime. As with any new routine it’s not always well received, however, simply talking about the need for rest and the exciting new year ahead prepares children and allows them the ‘buy in’. I give the Grand Prince a little wiggle room with bedtime (“okay bud, you choose. 7:45? or 8:00?) I know, it’s a no brainer and he’s only 7 and can tell time but the key is HE gets to choose instead of me or the Spouse dictating a time.

The same goes for setting the morning alarm. Give yourself and your child the time you need in the mornings for breakfast, personal hygiene routines, dressing etc.
It’s crucial if, like me, you’re simply not a morning person or you can’t form a complete sentence without three cups of coffee under your belt. The Grand Prince takes his shower the night prior, decides on the day’s attire, gets his backpack ready with paperwork and snacks and hung on the newel post while I set a place for breakfast. The less you have to squeeze into your morning, the smoother it goes for everyone.

And on that first day of school, provided your child’s not horrified at the idea of being seen with you as their friends look on, you can get a hug, a smile and a “see you after school!” as they exit the car and into the world of academia, happy and ready to meet the day.